Having a pelvic or genital examination

It’s likely that you’ll have a number of pelvic or genital examinations throughout your life.

Women who are sexually active, should have one each year that includes a check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and one every second year that includes a Pap test. Pelvic exams are also common during pregnancy.

What will the doctor or nurse ask?

Before examining you, your doctor or nurse will usually ask about your medical history. Some of the questions they ask may seem very personal but this is so they can get a better idea of the problem. They may ask:

  • what medications you take
  • whether you have any allergies
  • what health issues your family has
  • if you use condoms
  • how many sexual partners you’ve had
  • whether you have sex with men or women
  • about your period
  • about the results of any previous Pap or STI tests
  • whether you’ve been pregnant or have any children.

This information is confidential and they will not share it with anyone else.

What will they do?

Before the exam starts they will usually:

  • explain how the examination is performed, especially if this is your first one
  • ask you to undress from the waist down and then give you some privacy to do this
  • ask you to lie down on the examination table with your knees bent and feet apart.

During the exam they may:

  • press along your lower belly or abdomen to feel for abnormalities or sensitive areas
  • look at and touch areas of your vulva
  • wipe a cotton swab across your vulva to send away for testing
  • open your vagina with plastic or metal tongs (called a speculum) so they can see your cervix. They may also scrape a small part of your cervix (called a Pap test) or wipe your vagina with a cotton swab to send away for testing
  • put their gloved fingers inside your vagina, whilst feeling the outside of your tummy with their other hand.

What does it feel like?

It can feel uncomfortable but it usually doesn’t last for a long time (about five minutes). It is normal to feel tense but relaxing your pelvic muscles as much as possible will make the exam more comfortable. The pain of untreated infections and irritations is also much worse than the examination.

What can I do?

You can ask for a friend or family member to stay with you during the exam. You can also stop the exam at any time if you feel uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something your doctor says or does.


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Disclaimer

The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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